About a year and a half ago I decided to cut out animal products fully for the first time. I had gone without dairy for a short time before this, gave it up and then went for it again. I decided to go vegan to help improve my digestive health. It didn’t take long for me to notice changes like weight loss, reduced pain and inflammation, better sleep, and more energy. Shortly after that I also went gluten free. This was a lot harder for me to do, and still is, but again I saw many changes that push me to keep going with it. My digestion/GERD is controlled a lot more when I stay away from gluten. I have zero bloat and even less pain and inflammation. For as much as I see and feel the benefits in maintaining a gluten free diet, I am focusing this post on my reasons and choices to go vegan.
I will be honest, I am not 100% vegan/plant-based all of the time. I’m human and have weaknesses. One of them is food. I happen to love food. I like cooking for my family and trying new recipes but I get bored easily making the same things over and over again. And I’m lazy, sometimes. Sometimes I just don’t have it in me to put in the effort it takes to plan and prep my food so I will do what’s easiest. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not hard to to cook a vegan meal. But sometimes I don’t feel like doing it. I know I’m not the only one out there who feels this way! It has taken me a while to realize that I don’t have to be perfect all the time so I don’t beat myself up over it, too much anyway. I do know there are people who are 100% vegan always. That is amazing and great, and maybe one day I will be there. But for now I am happy that I am about 90% vegan. Sometimes I will have real cheese or eggs. Sometimes I will have some meat, usually fish/seafood or, *GASP* a hot dog or gyro. I haven’t had lunch meat in so long because the last time I did it tasted awful. The same goes for chicken, beef or pork. It honestly grosses me out and if I do attempt to eat it, I end up spitting it out. It just doesn’t taste good to me. Unfortunately, I have always leaned towards the super bad for you meats like the hot dogs, salami, and processed stuff.
Like I said before, I chose to start eating a vegan diet for health reasons. However, this quickly changed. As I started watching documentaries and reading up on the vegan lifestyle, I came to learn about the dairy and meat industries. I was appalled at not only what was being done to animals, but what was being done to the food that we are supposed to be putting in our bodies. Listen, I get it. I get that humans have been eating meat for hundreds and thousands of years. I believe in the Hunter/Gatherer system. It makes sense. But there is a HUGE difference in the way our ancestors consumed animal products and the way we Americans do now. We weren’t made to consume as much meat as we do, first of all. We weren’t made to consume such processed meat as we do. Here’s something that really strikes a chord with me. What do the animals that you consume eat? Grass. They eat plants. WHAT? The animals are getting their nutrients solely from plants?! These days, the “best for you beef” is GRASS fed beef. If plants are good enough for the animals to eat, then why don’t I just eat the plants? Guess what, if they can do it, I can do it. I am cutting out the middle man, or middle animal if you will, and going straight to the source. One more tidbit: did you know that hot dogs, lunch meats, and red meat are categorized as carcinogens? That means cancer causing. The same category as smoking, asbestos and plutonium*. Why would I want to do that to my body?
I started reducing the amount of dairy my kids consumed years ago, when the older two were still in elementary school. I started reading and hearing about hormones in cow’s milk and it didn’t sit well with me to have my kids drink it all the time. Was I super strict about it? No, I wasn’t. However, I was conscious of it. The more and more I thought about it, the less consuming cow’s milk made sense. I’m not a cow, why do I need to drink a cow’s milk? Humans are the ONLY species that drinks another species milk. Why? Because we are told to? That’s not enough reason for me. Take a look into the dairy industry and I guarantee you’ll second guess that ice cream you’re eating. Not only that but really sit back and think about how and why milk is produced. There are tons of diary brands that proudly label their products as “No Hormones Added” but guess what? Milk is produced because of hormones. So even if that momma cow, who just had her baby calf ripped from her, wasn’t given extra hormones, her milk is still full of hormones because that’s how her body made the milk to begin with. So either way, added or not, you’re drinking/eating/consuming cow hormones. Those hormones are then in turn affecting your body. I don’t know about you but I have a hard enough time managing my own hormones, I don’t need another species hormones in the mix. One more thought on cow’s milk. Puss. Yes, puss. Because of continuous pregnancies and excessive milking, cows can develop mastitis. Mastitis is an infection in the milk ducts of the udders. This causes blood and puss to enter the milk. Grossed out yet? If not, here you go…in the US, the FDA allows 750 million puss cells in every liter of milk*. You are drinking puss from a cow. How does that puss affect us? Think mucus, inflammation, sinus problems and a variety of other problems. Why do you think doctors will recommend a decrease in dairy consumption when you have cold? Because the milk creates mucus and phlegm and that makes it harder to breathe. Just another reason for me to stay away from it.
Now, whether or not you believe in climate change, it is a proven fact that animal agriculture has a negative effect on our planet. In fact, animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation*. Not only that but take into consideration the amount of land, water and energy used to produce meat and animal products. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat*. That’s one pound. Think about how many pounds of meat are consumed DAILY across the US. If health reasons or the treatment of animals doesn’t effect you enough to change you, maybe the destruction of our planet will. It might not seem like you, just one person, would make a difference by changing your diet. But I’m here to tell you, even just small changes make a big difference. Unfortunately there is a lot we need to change to help the status of our planet from reducing waste, reducing the use of single use plastics, and reducing animal agriculture. But I do think that with education and small changes over a period of time, we can make a difference!
My choice to consume a mostly vegan diet evolved from needing to improve my health to becoming very conscious about the effects of consuming animal products not only for myself, but for the animals and the planet. I like to think of it as a trifecta. Health, animal cruelty, and bio responsibility. I am happy to say that over time my family has also become very aware of my efforts and reasons to maintain this lifestyle. I had a lot to do with it by encouraging them to watch documentaries with me and become educated as well. We talk about food openly and because of this my husband has changed the way he thinks about food and what he is consuming, my teenage daughter doesn’t complain about not having all the food she really wants and appreciates my efforts to help keep her healthy, and the toddler has become a great eater (for as much as a toddler can be) and enjoys his veggies. We don’t buy meat anymore, or milk. In fact, is very rare that we have any dairy or meat products in the house. I know not everyone fully understands and that is okay. But if I have helped educate at least one person with this post, then my job is done!
For me, I really do find the beauty and satisfaction in eating plants for myself, the animals, and the planet. Here is a small list of where to start if you are inclined to educate yourself! The following are documentaries that I highly recommend: What The Health, Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy, and The Game Changers. I will work to put more of a list of resources together for you!